Bio-Engineering E.Coli To Degrade Plastic and Save The Baltimore Inner Harbor
About Our Project
Plastic pollution is a significant problem that not only affects the environment but human health as well. There have been many implementations created in order to eliminate plastic in the Earth’s waterways, but none of the approaches have been successful in collecting microplastics.
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic debris that occurs after years of plastic degradation in the environment. They also come from cosmetics and cleansers. Even though microplastics seem like they would cause fewer problems, there are extremely harmful due to the toxins that are still present in these tiny particles of plastic.
In 2014, researchers at Keio University and Kyoto Institute of Technology discovered a bacterium called Ideonella sakaiensis. This bacteria can use the enzymes PETase and MHETase to degrade polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is the most common type of plastic debris found in marine environments. Instead of using the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis, we inserted the enzymes into K-12 E.coli cells for safety reasons.
The genetically modified bacteria is expected to be able to degrade plastic into ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid. We are investigating ways in which these monomers could be used as a possible energy source. The Baltimore Bio-Crew intends to use these engineered E.coli, or the enzymes separated from them, in a bioreactor to degrade PET plastic that cannot be recycled; in a laundry filter to degrade synthetic fibers that come off of clothes; or contained inside of a device to degrade plastic in marine environments such as the Inner Harbor.
The Baltimore Bio-Crew thanks our sponsors for their generous support of our team that made our project and travel to the Jamboree possible. Thank you!